Was he gone for good? As the calendar changed to 1995 and Michael Jordan
was still in Birmingham rather than Chicago, the chances of him returning to a basketball court seemed ever-slimmer. And with the cleanly designed Air Jordan 10 (Air Jordan X), Nike
started to hedge their bets. There was a “City Pack” of different colors made for different regions, worn by such unlikely Jordan heirs as Mitch Richmond (Sacramento), Nick Anderson (Orlando), Hubert Davis (New York), Kendall Gill (Seattle) and Harold Miner (Miami). And while the outsole listed some of Jordan’s many accomplishments in chronological order, the line for 1995 just read “BEYOND.” Even Nike didn’t know what was coming next.
But while Jordan may not have been in the NBA
, he was still heavily involved in the design of the shoe that bore his name. The first incarnation of the Air Jordan 10, in white and steel grey, featured a leather strip across the toe, a feature that had not appeared on an Air Jordan since the Air Jordan 5 (Air Jordan V). When Jordan saw it, he expressed his distaste to Tinker Hatfield
— and ensuing builds went back to the clean-toe look. That was not the kind of mistake anyone would make twice.
That wasn’t the end of his involvement, of course. In foreshadowing, Scottie Pippen wore a pair in a game, lifted his foot to the camera while seated on the bench, and pointed at the Jumpman on the sole, then beckoned, a huge smile on his face. Maybe he knew something we didn’t. A two-word fax in March — I’M BACK — marked Jordan’s return to the NBA, and although his playoff run would end early for the first time since 1990 (courtesy of, ironically enough, the Orlando Magic and Jordan endorser Anderson), he’d shock the world yet again in an entirely different way.